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Cannes Palme d'Or goes to Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Colour

UPDATE: Kechiche shares top prize with lead actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in emotional closing ceremony.

Scroll down for full list of winners

Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche’s steamy portrait of youthful, lesbian love Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle - Chapitre 1 & 2) clinched the Cannes Palme d’Or on Sunday evening.

By chance, the announcement of Blue’s win coincided with riots in the French capital on Sunday evening, after a march protesting France’s recent legalisation of same-sex marriage turned sour.

Commenting on the win, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said: “I love the idea that we’re having a big fight in France right now about marriage for everyone (gay marriage), and that here we have a film talking about love and passion between two people of the same sex and that the film was conceived and made two years ago… artists are always writing the future and I think that everyone who is against homosexual marriage or love between two people of the same sex should see this film.”

While Blue was deemed a front-runner for the top prize, surprise shutouts from the awards list included Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, which had been tipped for Cannes prizes.

Breaking with festival protocol, the Steven Spielberg-presided jury attributed the Palme d’Or jointly to Kechiche as well as his youthful leading ladies Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

“The jury has taken the exceptional step of recognising the achievements of three artists in its presentation of the Palme D’Or. They are Adèle, Léa and Abdellatif Kechiche,” said Spielberg as he made the announcement.

The emotional trio took to the stage amid a two-minute standing ovation - Exarchopoulos and Seydoux intermittently sobbing and laughing with joy.

Having thanked Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux for inviting him to Cannes, Kechiche also paid tribute to Wild Bunch co-chiefs Brahim Chioua and Vincent Maraval. Wild Bunch produced the picture, alongside Alcatraz Films and Quat’Sous Films, and also sold the film internationally.

“The whole team at Wild Bunch are just amazing - precisely because they are real team,” said Kechiche.

He also recalled the late producer Claude Berri, who produced and financed his 2007 film The Secret of the Grain, describing him as “a man who carried me, supported me and helped me make my way and whom I miss to this day.” He also thanked his long-time collaborator Ghalya Lacroix, who co-wrote the script.

In a nod to his split Franco-Tunisian identity, Kechiche paid tribute to the “wonderful French youth” he had encountered in the making of Blue, praising their spirit of freedom and openness, and then dedicated the prize to the young Tunisians who had participated in his native country’s 2011 revolution.

“It was an extraordinary act on their part and my hope is that they too can one day live freely, express themselves freely and love freely,” continued Kechiche.

Premiering in the second half of the festival, Blue is the Warmest Colour was an immediate hit with the critics, topping the Screen Jury Grid within 24 hours of its premiere.

Some in the press questioned, however, whether its steamy love-making scenes made it too hot for a Palme d’Or win.

In another twist, the French press reported back in April that the film would not be presented for Official Selection because it was not ready.

Wild Bunch has been doing a roaring trade on the picture throughout the festival selling it to Sundance Selects for the US as well as to the Benelux (Cineart), Brazil (Imovision) and Italy (Lucky Red) among others.

In other prizes, Ethan and Joel Coen scooped the Grand Prix for their much-lauded Inside Llewyn Davies set against the backdrop of New York’s nascent folk scene in the 1960s.

The brothers were already back in the US and unable to return to Cannes in time for the ceremony, said lead actor Oscar Isaac, who accepted the prize on their behalf.

The brothers won the Palme d’Or in 1991 with Barton Fink followed by Best Director for Fargo in 1996 and The Man Who Wasn’t There in 2001.

Somewhat surprisingly, Best Director went to Mexican Amat Escalante for his timely and violent picture Heli set against the backdrop of a Mexican industrial town in the grip of a powerful drugs cartel.

“Let’s hope we never get used to this situation and that one day the suffering will come to an end,” said Escalante, who was previously in Cannes with Sangre in 2005, which premiered in Un Certain Regard, winning the FIPRESCI Prize for that section.

The Jury Prize went to Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda baby-swap melodrama Like Father, Like Son. The film-maker thanked his wife for bearing him the daughter who had been the inspiration for the picture.

Chinese director Jia Zhangke won best screenplay for his powerful exposé of modern-day Chinese society A Touch of Sin. MK2 has been racking up sales throughout Cannes on the picture, which is expected to court controversy back home for its searing attack on Chinese corruption.

A visibly shocked Bérénice Bejo won best actress for her perfomance in Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Paris-set melodrama The Past (Le Passe) about a couple coming to terms with a failed marriage.

“I truly wasn’t expecting this… I hate it when people say that at award ceremonies, but it’s true. I want to thank Asghar Farhadi because I love this movie so much, what I was able to do in this film was thanks to you,” said the tearful actress hailing him on stage for the photo-call.

Best actor went to 76-year-old Bruce Dern for his performance in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska as a demented old man who forces his son to drive him to Lincoln to collect a $1 million lottery prize which is clearly a scam.

“If Bruce Dern were here tonight he would have talked about his pride in having worked on this film as well as having presented it at this festival,” said Payne, who accepted the award on the actor’s behalf.

The Camera d’Or for the best first film went to Singaporean Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo about a Filippina woman working as a maid for a Singaporean family, inspired by the director’s own childhood memories. It was the first time a picture from Singapore has won a prize in Cannes.

“Thanks to the delicacy and intelligence of the auteur the characters in the film evoke essential contemporary themes, which touched us all - childhood, immigration, class, the economic crisis,” said veteran filmmaker Agnes Varda, who presided over the Camera d’Or jury.

The Palme d’Or for best short went to Korean Moon Byoung-gon’s Safe and special mentions were meted out to Adriano Valerio’s 37° S W and Guðmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s Whale Valley.

CANNES 2013 AWARDS

Palme d’Or
Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie D’Adele Chapitre 1 & 2) by Abdellatif Kechiche

Grand Prix
Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Best Director
Amat Escalante for Heli

Jury prize
Hirokazu Kore-eda for Like Father, Like Son

Best Screenplay
Jia Zhang-ke for A Touch of Sin

Best Actress
Berenice Bejo in The Past (Le Passe) by Asghar Farhadi

Best Actor
Bruce Dern in Nebraska by Alexander Payne

Camera d’Or (Best First Feature)
Ilo Ilo by Anthony Chen (presented in Directors’ Fortnight)

Palme d’Or Court Metrage (Short Film)
Safe by Moon Byoung-gon

Special Mentions to Whale Valley (Hvalfjordur) by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson and 37°4 S by Adriano Valerio

Readers' comments (2)

  • sandip mahal

    Thank god the diversity of films can offset the multiplex fodder that is currently melting my eyes rendering them as lifeless orbs

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  • You have to feel sorry for Michael Douglas. He is astonishingly good as Liberace in Behind The Candelabra whilst Bruce Dern is fine in Nebraska but it didn't seem quite as extraordinary a performance.

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